The Relationship between Qualified Personnel and Self-Reported Implementation of Recommended Physical Education Practices and Programs in U.S. Schools

By Davis, Kristen S.; Burgeson, Charlene R. et al. | Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, June 2005 | Go to article overview

The Relationship between Qualified Personnel and Self-Reported Implementation of Recommended Physical Education Practices and Programs in U.S. Schools


Davis, Kristen S., Burgeson, Charlene R., Brener, Nancy D., McManus, Tim, Wechsler, Howell, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport


The authors analyzed data from the School Health Policies and Programs Study 2000 to assess the associations between the presence of a district physical education coordinator and district-level physical education policies and practices recommended by federal government agencies and national organizations. The authors also examined the relationship between teacher qualifications and staff development related to physical education and self-reported implementation of recommended teaching practices. District-level data were collected by self-administered mail questionnaires from a nationally representative sample of school districts. Classroom-level data were collected by computer-assisted personal interviews with teachers of randomly selected classes in elementary schools and randomly selected required physical education courses in middle/junior high and senior high schools. Nearly two thirds (62.2 %) of districts had a physical education coordinator, and those were generally more likely than other districts to report having policies and practices that corresponded with national recommendations for high-quality physical education programs. More than two thirds of teachers (66.9%) met the criteria for teacher qualifications based on their education and certification. These teachers were more likely than others to report use of certain recommended physical education teaching practices. Teachers who participated in staff development also were more likely to use recommended teaching practices in their classrooms. Using a district physical education coordinator and teachers with appropriate qualifications as well as offering staff development opportunities on physical education may enhance school physical education programs.

Key words: physical activity, staff development, teaching practices

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More than 53 million students attend approximately 119,000 schools in the United States (U.S. Department of Education [USDOE], 2003). Providing physical education in schools is one way to ensure that significant numbers of children and adolescents engage in physical activity. Schools have "the potential to make valuable contributions to the prevention and treatment of obesity," (Story, 1999, p. S50) and can establish a foundation for a lifetime enjoyment of physical activity (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS] & USDOE, 2000). In addition, physical education in schools can allow students to develop behavioral and motor skills (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 1997), improve knowledge related to physical activity (Kahn et al., 2002), and practice goal setting (CDC, 1997).

School district support and developing and implementing sound school-level policies are crucial to a successful physical education program (Seefeldt, 1998). Important district-level policies and practices include following national, state, or district physical education standards, hiring qualified physical education teachers, and offering staff development opportunities. A school district physical education coordinator, with the support of district administrators and curriculum coordinators, can offer teachers at the classroom level the resources and support needed for a high-quality physical education program (Kane, 1994).

Compared to regular classroom teachers, physical education specialists have been shown to teach longer lessons, spend more time developing skills, and provide more moderate and vigorous physical activity opportunities to students in physical education classes (McKenzie et al., 1995; McKenzie, Sallis, Faucette, Roby, & Kolody, 1993; Sallis et al., 1997). In a randomized control study of elementary physical education lessons, physical education specialists spent more class time on moderate to vigorous physical activity and promoting fitness than did classroom teachers with additional physical education training and classroom teachers with no additional training (McKenzie et al. …

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